How to Stay Connected in a Time of Social Distancing
As an HOA management company, our job is to support property values and maintain a sense of community throughout an association. With all the COVID-19-related social and personal disruptions these days, keeping a strong bond between neighbors presents challenges. However, in times like these, a shared sense of community takes on added importance.
In this article we’ll present some innovative but practical tips to stay connected with your community until you’re able to occupy shared spaces again.
Use technology to your advantage
Even though everyone is stuck in place, HOA board meetings are still legally required. California’s governor has issued an order authorizing shareholder meetings and city council meetings to take place electronically, but as yet, there is no specific directive regarding HOAs. Per current legislation, associations are permitted to conduct teleconferences in place of open board meetings, as long as there is a physical location available for members to attend if they desire. That said, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a special circumstance, so associations are advised to balance shelter-in-place orders with good faith efforts to act in the spirit of the law.
Luckily, there are many digital tools that enable boards to conduct effective meetings remotely. While there are lots of conference call services on the market, Zoom is our preferred platform. Zoom’s video conferencing allows participants to both hear and see others, simulating the same valuable face-to-face connection that occurs during in-person meetings. Participants can also share their screens, exchange written chats and transfer files. New security protocols enable meeting hosts to authorize participants as they join, so meeting confidentiality is always protected.
During times of crisis, HOA boards should aim to increase communication, in both detail and frequency. Homeowners will have lots of questions about how they’ll be affected by current circumstances and the faster you can get ahead of the conversation, the faster you can increase homeowners’ confidence.
Your community manager will help draft communications and will manage all the platforms your association is currently using, as well as suggest a roll-out plan for new means of communication. Written newsletters, eNewsletters, email blasts, social media groups and messages, on-site signage and your community’s website are all opportunities to make sure your messaging reaches as many association members as possible.
Important topics to address include:
- New safety protocols
- Updates to community rules & regulations
- Changes to amenity availability and hours
- Response to government orders
- How to reach with the board and management during this time
- Assessment information
- Vendor updates
- Frequently asked questions
Weekly updates from your HOA management company
Now, more than ever, HOA managers are the eyes of the board and the boots on the ground in the community. As essential service providers, we are permitted to work in communities, even during general stay-at-home orders. We have recently implemented a new program in which Keystone community managers deliver weekly status reports to HOA boards of directors.
Regular updates via video, conference call or email are a great way to keep board and community members updated about the status of projects, vendor management, common areas and next steps for your HOA. We have also launched a regularly-updated COVID-19 information center on the Keystone website that contains useful information about changing regulation and our service commitment.
Just because homeowners are spending more time in their homes doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of opportunities to maintain strong relationships between neighbors. We’re seeing our community managers launch many creative ideas to get residents involved in their communities.
Some innovative ideas for community-building in your HOA include:
- Virtual community tours for incoming homeowners
- Online games
- Virtual social gatherings
- Creative online contests
- Social media video challenges
- Stay-in-your-yard bock parties
We’re also following suit in our own organization. Internally, we’ve launched some of our own virtual team-building activities, including ‘Namaste at Home,’ a 20-minute weekly online group yoga session for Keystone staff members.
Though today’s circumstance presents a unique set of challenges, we’re witnessing a spirit of innovation and resilience from HOA managers, board members and communities. By taking advantage of new technologies and applying a bit of creativity, HOAs can maintain seamless governance to emerge stronger and more connected than ever.